History Lesson: Under the Apple Tree
August 17, 1977: FTD breaks all records for flower deliveries, as fans send bouquets to Graceland after Elvis Presley's death. Although celebrity deaths have a standard pattern now, the culture didn't quite know how to react to Elvis 27 years ago. Network TV news reported it with a tone of, "We're showing you this but we don't quite understand it," and People magazine didn't even put Elvis on its cover that week, which it now calls the greatest mistake the magazine ever made.
August 17, 1970: Christine McVie joins Fleetwood Mac. Her cool, cerebral presence was the sexiest thing about Fleetwood Mac during their glory years, Stevie Nicks notwithstanding. They're carrying on without her, but as I said after watching their live Boston show during the recent PBS pledge drive, "That's a good band, but it's not Fleetwood Mac."
Birthday Today: Belinda Carlisle is 46. The Go-Gos were a bunch of L.A. teenagers who wanted to be in a band, and never mind that they couldn't play or sing. Essential tracks: "Head Over Heels" and "Turn to You," although "Our Lips Are Sealed" and "We Got the Beat" were bigger hits.
Number Ones on This Date:
1999: "All Star" by Smash Mouth. I never heard this on the radio, but it has been inescapable since, in commercials and on TV. It was also the first record my nephew, then seven, ever owned. Will he still love it in 35 years, as I love the first records I ever owned? I wonder.
1974: "The Night Chicago Died" by Paper Lace. If you are a 70s geek, you know this is an essential record. It is not based on a true story, although millions believe it is. It's simply a well-told story--the kind of thing that's sucked us in since we were cave people around campfires.
1964: "Everybody Loves Somebody" by Dean Martin. Deano dethroned "A Hard Day's Night" from the top spot, proving that the kids hadn't taken over the world yet. But Deano would be dethroned himself by the Supremes and "Where Did Our Love Go," proving that it wouldn't be long.
1956: "Hound Dog"/"Don't Be Cruel" by Elvis. This did 11 weeks at the top, making it the Number One single of the rock era, until Billboard revised its chart methodology in 1991, thus paving the way for longer runs at the top by the likes of Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey and N'Sync. Which proves that numbers ain't all.
1944: "GI Jive" by Louis Jordan. World War II infiltrated popular culture to an extent we simply can't grasp today, even though we're supposedly at war, too. Several war-related songs hit Number One between 1942 and 1945. There was "A Hot Time in the Town of Berlin" by the Andrews Sisters, released just after D-Day in 1944, and 1943's "Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition" by Kay Kyser--which Toby Keith must not know, or he'd have covered it by now. You can trace the trajectory of the war experience by some of the songs. One of the big hits of 1942, the war's first full year, was "Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree (With Anyone Else But Me)" by Glenn Miller and the Andrews Sisters, a bouncy number that doesn't acknowledge what the boy-gone-off-to-war is facing. But 1944's "I'll Be Seeing You," recorded most famously by Bing Crosby, is another matter altogether. Two years into the war, the sacrifices sometimes asked of people were well known. Most of us can't hear this song the way people heard it then--about parting with someone and not knowing if you'll ever see that someone again.